Getting the most out of the Decent Work Country Programme was a key theme of the ILO Pacific Trade Union Workshop on International Labour Standards and Capacity Building held in Auckland, New Zealand, in late November.
Senior union representatives from Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands met for two days to look at progress on how their respective countries were implementing the core ILO conventions around freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, along with the current labour law reform processes in their own countries.
Most delegates reported that, while their countries had ratified the core ILO conventions on labour standards, in many cases this had not been followed by their effective implementation. Unions were, however, working with governments and employers in most countries to make improvements and key to this is ensuring that union organisations are sufficiently resourced and have the capacity to engage effectively.
The union leaders also identified other issues they face, including the need to build membership numbers and to ensure their influence as full social partners as their countries moved forward to improve labour laws. This includes making sure private sector employers understand and comply with labour legislation.
The Secretary of the Kiribati Trade Union Congress, Kanata Tebebeku, said that it was particularly useful to be able to meet with other Pacific Island union leaders and learn more about campaigning, particularly as it will help Kiribati unions to increase membership. Kanata said it was good to share ideas and learn not just from other Pacific Island unions, but also with New Zealand and Australian unions. “It means that we are better able to go back and encourage our government in the development of new labour laws and collective bargaining,” she concluded.
Similarly, Alfred Legua, President of the Solomon Islands Council of Trade Unions, said that meetings of the Pacific union leaders strengthens the union’s position on issues such as Fiji and the desire for to government’s to ratify core conventions of the ILO and then for their implementation. “It’s an opportunity for union leaders to share ideas and experiences and to support each other as they strive to achieve common objectives,” he said.
The workshop prepared a strong statement for the forthcoming ILO Aisa Pacific Regional Meeting on Rights at Work which included a call for the campaign to be increased to support Fijian unions and the threat to democratic trade unions and human rights in that country following the implementation of the Essential National Industries decree. That decree has essentially stripped unions of their rights and been followed by unprecedented harassment of union officials.
Other points included in the statement were aimed at ensuring that the implementation of the core ILO standards, particularly around collective bargaining and freedom of association, are given priority in each of the Pacific countries, that measures are taken to ensure that progress on the implementation is properly reported to the ILO and that unions are adequately resourced as they strive to achieve their Decent Work Programme goals.
Finally, there was a call for special attention to be given to the potential fate of some Pacific Island countries and the effect on workers as a result of global warming.
For further information please contact:
Strategies for Decent Work Specialist
ILO Country Office for South Pacific Island Countries
Tel: +679 3313410